How often to feed baby red eared slider

Feeding Aquatic Turtles | VCA Animal Hospital

For the purpose of this discussion, the common red-eared slider will be used as a representative animal in describing how to feed aquatic turtles.

What do red-eared sliders eat?

An improper diet is likely the most common cause of health problems in captive turtles and other reptiles.

"Red-eared sliders are typically voracious eaters and are omnivorous, eating both animal and vegetable matter."

Red-eared sliders are typically voracious eaters and are omnivorous, eating both animal protein and vegetable matter. As juveniles, they are mainly carnivorous (eat animal protein) and become more omnivorous as they age. All aquatic turtles eat and swallow with their head under water and will not eat out of the water. To help facilitate optimal cleanliness of their tanks, aquatic turtles can be fed in a separate, small aquarium of warm water. That way, they will soil this water, and not their main aquarium. When feeding turtles, offering a variety of food is important. Changing the types of food fed on a regular basis helps stimulate the turtle to eat and provides nutritional balance.


What are some acceptable animal-based protein foods I can offer my red-eared sliders?

The carnivorous portion of their diet should consist of commercial turtle or fish pellets, as well as a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates. Pelleted foods come in several sizes. Larger pellets tend to float well and are attractive to large turtles, whereas smaller pellets tend to sink quickly and are generally accepted by juveniles and small turtles.

"The carnivorous portion of their diet should consist of commercial turtle or fish pellets, as well as a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates."

Aquatic turtles in the wild eat fish, and "feeder fish" may be purchased from pet stores or bait stores to feed pet turtles. Depending on the size of the turtle, fish such as goldfish, guppies, or minnows may be offered. Feeding live fish can provide your turtle with the mental stimulation and exercise that comes with the challenge of chasing and catching its dinner. Fish also can be a good source of calcium for turtles, as long as they eat the entire fish, bones and all. However, recently feeder fish have been implicated as carriers of parasites and bacteria that can infect the pet turtles that eat them. Therefore, if feeder fish are fed to turtles, they should be offered infrequently. Smelt, mackerel, and other oily fish should be fed sparingly or avoided all together, as their high fat content may upset nutritional balance and lead to vitamin E deficiencies. A predominantly fish diet may also lead to a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, so fish should only be offered as a small portion of aquatic turtles’ diets.

Depending on the size of the turtle, amphibians such as tadpoles and frogs can be offered, as can earthworms, snails, slugs, beetles, grasshoppers, moths, crickets, mealworms, wax worms, and other insects. Feeding wild-caught fish and amphibians is not recommended, as they may contain parasites and other infectious organisms that may affect the turtle.

Raw meat, fish, or chicken from the grocery store does not contain a balance of calcium and phosphorus for a turtle and is not recommended as a food source for turtles. Regardless of the protein source, the carnivorous portion of a turtle’s diet should make up no more than two thirds of the diet of juveniles and about half of the diet of adults.

What types of plant material can I feed my red-eared slider?

The plant portion of the diet should be made up of vegetables, preferably ones that float and can be left in the water for the turtle to nibble on throughout the day. Leftover food should be scooped out of the tank daily to promote proper hygiene. Desirable vegetables to offer include dark leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, carrot tops, endive, Swiss chard, kale, parsley, green beans, dandelion greens, turnip greens, and clover. Iceberg or head lettuce should not be fed, as it is comprised mostly of water and contains very little nutritional value.

"The key to feeding turtles is to provide variety, as many turtles get bored and stop eating if they are fed the same foods over and over."

The key to feeding turtles is to provide variety, as many turtles get bored and stop eating if they are fed the same foods over and over. Many red-eared sliders are drawn to the color red, so shredded vitamin-A rich red bell pepper is also good to offer. Safe, non-toxic aquatic plants, such as water hyacinth, water lilies, Elodea, or duckweed, can be placed in the tank. Always check the safety of plants before offering them to your turtle to be sure they are non-toxic.

How often should I feed my red-eared slider?

The frequency of feeding depends on the age and size of your red-eared slider. Smaller or juvenile turtles will eat heartily every day. As they get older, adult turtles may be offered a good-sized portion of food every two or three days.

Do I need to give my red-eared slider vitamins and minerals?

The key to proper nutrition for a red-eared slider is a diverse and varied diet containing a balance of vegetable and animal protein, depending on the pet’s age. Some veterinarians suggest adding a balanced, commercially available multivitamin once per week with an additional source of calcium, such as a calcium block or cuttlebone, twice per week.

What about water?

Aquatic turtles, of course, swim in water and drink all day; therefore, the only water requirement for an aquatic turtle is to keep their tanks clean and at an appropriate temperature. Having a well-functioning filtration system that is cleaned regularly is key to ensuring good water quality.

If you have any other questions about nutrition or care of your red-eared slider, make sure you seek the advice of a veterinarian familiar with turtles. Remember, turtles and other reptiles commonly carry Salmonella bacteria on their skin or in the gastrointestinal tracts, so it is important to always wash your hands thoroughly after feeding, cleaning, or handling turtles.

You Need to Know How Often to Feed a Red-Eared Slider

Copyright: freerlaw / 123RF Stock Photo

Turtles constantly beg for food, especially when you come into sight. Does that mean they are hungry? Here is how often to feed a red-eared slider. 

If you have ever wanted to know how often to feed a red-eared slider, here’s the quick and short answer.

How often should you feed a red-eared slider?

You can feed a red-eared slider once daily, however what you are feeding it depends on how old your turtle is. Younger red-eared babies and juveniles should eat protein daily, whereas older sliders should eat primarily a vegetable-based diet. 

As a red-eared slider owner, I can tell you that their appetite is huge!

I could literally feed giant handfuls of tender filet mignon steak to my slider 3x a day and it would still appear to be starving as I gave it a 4th serving.

Red Eared Slider Diet

As omnivores, a Red Eared Slider’s Diet consist of food from both animal and plant sources. In the wild, Red Eared Sliders usually eat aquatic plants, small fish, crawfish, and worms. A pet Red Eared Slider’s diet should consist of around 25% pellets, 50% vegetables, and 25% mealworms/fish/shrimp.

If you have other species of turtles, you should check out my general guide on how often should I feed my turtle?

Red-eared slider food list

Below are the 4 main food choices that I feed my Red-Eared Slider. As mentioned earlier, older sliders will likely need more vegetable based food while younger sliders need more protein.


My Top Pick

Tetra Tetrafauna Pro Turtle Food

    Price: ~$10 Nutrition: High Protein and Vitamin D3

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Aquatic Turtle Medley Food - Freeze Dried Shrimp & Mealworms for Aquatic Turtle

    Price: ~$15 Nutrition: High Protein and Fiber

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Fluker’s Buffet Blend Turtle Food

    Price: ~$8 Nutrition: High Protein and Vitamin A

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Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food

    Price: ~$15 Nutrition: High Protein and Vitamin C, D3, E

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Once you have estimated your turtle’s age, then you can determine an optimal feeding schedule. You will typically feed a hatchling and juvenile turtle at least once a day. Adult Red Eared Sliders only need to be fed every other day.

Here is how often I would recommend feeding a Red Eared Slider.

How often to feed red eared slider?

Hatchling and Juvenile red-eared sliders should be fed everyday, while adults can be fed every other day.


  • Offer a little bit of daily vegetables. They will probably not eat them, but this is OK, still offer them.
  • Offer them daily pellets. Every few days you can treat them to a different protein source.


  • Keep offering daily vegetables. They will probably occasionally eat these. If they still don’t, don’t worry.
  • Offer them pellets every other day. Once a week or so you can give them a different protein.
  • You can read more specific recommendations in my article on Red Eared Slider baby care.


  • Vegetables should make up the bulk of their diet, and the older they get, the less protein they will need. You should feed an adult red eared slider vegetables every other day or at least 3 times a week.
  • Offer them a protein source once or twice a week. You can gradually reduce their protein to once a week the older they get.

Why Is My Turtle Always Hungry?

There is a reason your turtle always appears to be hungry.

The reason is that in the wild, a red-eared slider is an opportunistic eater. They do not get the luxury of eating pellets, dried shrimp or mealworms in a relatively small aquarium where their prey cannot easily escape. In the wild, they are left with primarily aquatic vegetation, insects and the occasional stray fish that happens to come near as well as decaying organic matter from dead fish or frogs.

If your turtle doesn’t eat whatever is in front of it, it doesn’t eat period!

Thus, it is important that you ignore your turtle’s pleas and begs for food. It’s just being itself and it doesn’t know any better.  

Like I wrote above, you can absolutely feed your red-eared slider every single day or most days of the week, but what you will feed it will be based on how old your turtle is

This presents a problem because even if you have bought your red-eared slider from someone else or a pet store, you aren’t likely to know its exact age unless you have brought it up since it was born.

That’s OK because you just need a rough estimate.

If you want to save money on turtle food, I recommend checking out this Buffet Blend Turtle Food.

How Old Is My Red-Eared Slider Turtle?

Here’s the thing, you aren’t going to be able to precisely determine your red-eared slider’s age unless you have taken care of it since it was born.

This isn’t a problem at all though, as we just need to figure out a good estimate.

Now some people say that you can figure out a turtle’s age based on the number of rings on its scutes, but this is a poor method for red-eared sliders as you can’t really see them. Moreover, the method itself is very problematic.

Here is what I suggest.

Loosely determine the age of your turtle based on the size of its turtle shell, and to a lesser extent, the coloring.

To measure its shell, take some measuring tape or a ruler and measure from the top of its shell just behind its head down to the middle of the bottom of its shell. You aren’t measuring its width, but its length here.

HatchlingJuvenile Adult
Less than 6 months old6 months to 2 years oldOlder than 2 years
Shell length usually around 2 inches (5-6 centimeters) Shell length closer but usually not exceeding 4 inches (~10 centimeters)Shell length more than 4 inches, steadily increasing to 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters)
Skin and shell are both very green, light and brightShell will turn a deeper shade of greenShell will be much more black and brown, especially after 4-5 years

Basically, you will want to kind of figure out if your turtle is:

  • A hatchling (less than 6 months).
  • A juvenile (6 months to 2 years).
  • An adult (2 years+).

This will determine how often you feed your turtle a protein source.

Best turtle food for red eared slider

Here are some options for the best vegetables and proteins for red eared sliders:


  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Anacharis
  • Red-leaf lettuce


  • Tetra ReptoMin Aquatic Turtle (learn more on Amazon)
  • Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Turtle Food (learn more on Amazon)

In the past, I have had turtles that will not eat fresh vegetables. I found the best alternative to fresh vegetables was the Zilla vegetable and fruit mix.

You can feed red-eared sliders fresh fruit, but it shouldn’t be fed daily.

I recommend using some type of aquatic pellet as your main protein staple, as this will ensure that your turtle gets an adequate amount of protein and other minerals and vitamins. A lot of other protein sources are actually devoid of nutritional content.

It is important to feed a red eared slider vegetables that have a lot of calcium. This can help prevent red eared slider shell rot.

Avoid These Red-Eared Slider Foods

For treats and to round-out their diet, I would recommend the following:

Protein Treats

  • Feeder fish
  • Crickets
  • Earthworms
  • Crayfish
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Krill

Vegetable and Fruit Treats

  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Collard greens
  • Endive
  • Banana (in small amounts)
  • Aquatic plants

For vegetable sources, a handful of romaine lettuce daily will do. If it’s too much they will simply stop eating it. It’s quite difficult for red-eared sliders to gorge on vegetables.

For protein sources, I would advise you to give them enough food that would fit into the size of their head was it empty.

Red-Eared Slider Feeding Schedule

Although this is the feeding schedule that I would recommend, there is an alternative, which is to feed them slightly less protein but to feed them daily.

Personally, I don’t really like this feeding schedule because I feel that it’s a little bit easier to overfeed them, but it’s just an alternative. You will want to avoid overfeeding your red-eared slider as this can cause a host of health problems, and can also lead to premature death.

As your turtle gets older, I would also recommend you to take a day out of the week (usually Sunday for me) and not feed them. This will give whatever is in their stomach some time to digest and give their stomachs a bit of a break. It will not hurt them and in my opinion, it helps prevent overeating.

Lastly, when feeding them, always make sure to keep on eye on your water temperature.

Try to keep it in the 70’s throughout the year. Closer to 80 for younger turtles and closer to 70 for older turtles.

You will have to be careful with this, as red-eared sliders need to be in the water in order to eat (they do not produce saliva), and if the water temperature gets too low, such as into the 50s, this can lead to respiratory disease and other illnesses. If the water gets even lower, the turtle will not be able to properly digest its food.


To summarize how often to feed a red-eared slider:

  • You can feed your turtle daily.
  • Hatchlings can be fed protein daily.
  • Juveniles can fed protein every other day.
  • Adult turtles should be fed once or twice a week, less as they age.
  • In order to figure out how often to feed your turtle, you will need to determine how old it is. You can do this by measuring the length of its shell and by looking at its coloring.
  • Pellets should make up the bulk of its protein sources.
  • As red-eared sliders age, they should be fed more and more vegetables and less and less protein.
  •  Dillon
  • Red Eared

How many times a day should a red-eared turtle be fed?

The red-eared turtle is the most common type of domestic turtle. This reptile has a medium size, an interesting color and has a fairly high level of intelligence. In terms of intelligence, it surpasses many other species of its kind.

Red-eared appeared in artificial terrariums many years ago, now such a pet can be purchased at any pet store. She is considered a long-liver: under favorable conditions, a pet can live thirty - forty (30 - 40) years. However, many owners of such a reptile do not know how often, what and how much to feed your red-eared turtle . In our article we will try to answer this important question.

What to feed

Under natural conditions, red-ears mainly feed on crustaceans, fry, small fish, as well as insects and snails. The reptile also needs plant food.

At home, it can be fed with various types of commercial food. It is important that the pet's diet is varied, so it should be added to the diet and natural food. It is worth noting that this type of turtle needs to be fed with water, as they are not able to produce saliva on their own. nine0003

How much and how often should I feed my red-eared turtle?

It is difficult to answer both of these questions unequivocally: it all depends on the size of the pet, age, and also the food that the reptile eats.
First, let's consider young turtles , that is, up to a year old. Feed them every day with purchased food. However, it is also necessary to give plant foods: vegetables, herbs, fruits, even if the pet refuses at first.

It is worth trying to feed the turtle with a bloodworm, you can start introducing aquatic crustaceans into the diet. The amount of food for young turtles is also different from its amount for older representatives of this species. They should be getting about fifty percent (50%) of the protein in their food daily. Therefore, feeding artificial food alone will not be enough. nine0003

The owner of a reptile to cover such a lack of nutrition should add to the menu turtles - fish such as guppies, if possible, earthworms and insects. Some experts claim that already at such a young age, your pet can eat boiled meat or minced meat with pleasure. However, this food should be introduced into the diet gradually.

Since foods can vary, you need to carefully choose the brand specifically designed for your pet. Namely: according to its age and size. It is important to know that young representatives of this species of reptiles need additional feeding with vitamins, it is worth consulting with a breeder or veterinarian about this. nine0003

Red-eared turtles can grow and develop normally only with proper feeding.

For adult red-eared turtles (more than a year old), the percentage of artificial food in the diet should be not less than ten (10%) and not more than twenty-five (25%).

It is worth gradually adding vegetable foods (for turtles older than a year, these are lettuce, dandelion leaves, cabbage and pieces of fresh cucumber). All this must be given, even if the pet initially refuses. You can and even need to give the turtle boiled or raw meat of chicken or beef. nine0003

Some experts suggest giving the red-eared turtle raw lean fish meat, but pre-boiled (about a minute) in boiling water. Small aquarium fish can be given both in crushed form and live, but it is worth commensurate the size of the live bait with the size of the turtle.

Reptiles between one and two years of age should be fed every other day. And an older pet, starting from the age of two, needs to be fed every two or even three days. But this, again, also depends on the individual characteristics of the reptile. nine0003

The turtle, which has reached the age of three, begins to eat more and more algae. To make the aquarium look aesthetically pleasing, aquatic plants should be grown in a separate place from the reptile.

It is important not to overfeed your pet, but at the same time not to leave him without the vitamins he needs. Any food for reptiles must be of high quality and fresh. Frozen food should be thawed and warmed to room temperature beforehand.

Food for turtles of all ages should be thrown directly into the water, but it is important to correctly calculate the amount of food, otherwise uneaten food will rot in the water, after which it will need to be changed. nine0003

Reptiles should be fed during daylight hours, as they are active during the day. With the correct calculation of the age, size, characteristics of the red-eared turtle and the selection of food, the owner will have a healthy and happy pet.


How much and how often to feed red-eared turtles

Contents of the article:

  • Danger of overfeeding and underfeeding
  • Feeding frequency for red-eared turtles
  • How long can a turtle go without food? nine0059

    The red-eared tortoise is a predator. The appearance of the reptile, its state of health and life expectancy depend on proper feeding. The main cause of reptile diseases is overfeeding. Therefore, you need to know how often and how much to feed the red-eared turtle.

    Danger of overfeeding and underfeeding

    Overfeeding of the red-eared slider turtle can cause:

    • abnormal growth of juveniles, in which case they have a disproportionately large carapace and fragile, small paws; nine0059
    • obese adult reptiles, they can see fat on the sides, when they pull their paws into the shell, skin folds are visible that look like bubbles;
    • pyramidal shell, in which you can see tubercles on it, such a pathology provokes various diseases of the internal organs of the turtle;
    • tympania, in which the reptile does not sink in water and falls on its right side, undigested food is visible in the feces, it can blow bubbles from the mouth, vomiting may open. nine0059

    Lack of food will lead to emaciation of the pet, in which there is exfoliation of the skin from the paws of the reptile.

    That's why it's so important to know how much and how often to feed your red-eared turtle.

    Feeding frequency for red-eared turtles

    How often you need to feed depends on the age of the pet and the type of food, the time of year.

    Small reptiles less than a year old or up to 10-12 cm in size (measured by the ventral shield of the carapace) should be fed 1-2 times a day every day. nine0003

    Serving sizes depend on the pet's activity. Experts advise that in order to find out the amount of food for one feeding, you need to track how much the animal eats in half an hour and give how much each time. The approximate amount of food is equal to half the reptile shell.

    If the young turtle ignores food and does not eat, then it is worth reducing the portion size and keeping the pet hungry for 1-2 days.

    If the red-eared turtle is older than a year, then it should be fed 2-3 times a week. At the same time, the terrarium should have plant food that the pet could eat whenever he wants. nine0003

    The older the red-eared slider is, the less often it needs to be fed, up to once a week.

    But keep in mind that reptiles have different appetites, so it's important to keep a close eye on your pet: a turtle communicates what he wants to eat with his behavior. She is active at the sight of the owner, tries to attract attention to herself in various ways, beats the water with her paws and flops, but as soon as she is fed, she calms down. Thus, a reptile can ask for food every day, or maybe once every 7 days. nine0003

    When an adult is refusing food, it is advised to reduce the amount and give less frequently.

    It must be remembered that the red-eared turtle is diurnal and its metabolic rate depends on temperature, so it should be fed in the morning or in the afternoon, but if you give it food before turning off the lamp, then there is a possibility that the food will not be digested, but settles in the stomach and begins to rot.

    How much red-eared turtles eat depends on the season: in spring and summer they eat more, and less in winter, as they hibernate. nine0003

    If the turtle is exhausted, then it should be fed every day, the food should be as much as the pet will eat.

    How long can a turtle go without food?

    Adults, if they are healthy, can not eat without harm to their body for 2 weeks, young reptiles - up to a week. When a pet is too small, it can live 3-7 days without food.

    Therefore, if the owners have to leave, then you can leave an adult tortoise alone for 7-10 days, nothing will happen to it. However, it is advisable to start small fish, snails and algae into the terrarium, if the reptile gets hungry, it can eat them. nine0003

    The turtle may not eat for several reasons:

    • because of the cold;
    • due to stress;
    • during the breeding season, if the terrarium contains individuals of different sexes, then during the mating games they do not eat, but after they are over, the appetite will return to the reptiles;
    • due to too early transfer of the pet to an adult diet, small turtles should not be given fish and boiled eggs;
    • due to illness.

    When you first get a reptile, it needs some time to get used to the change of environment. If the turtle refuses food for more than 3 days, but is mobile and has no visible signs of illness, then you may not be caring for it properly. nine0003

    When the pet is passive, he has nasal discharge, sneezing, swollen eyes, the turtle blows bubbles, then it should be shown to a specialist.

    It is important not to overfeed the red-eared turtle, but it should not be starved either. Food should be thrown directly into the water, but at the same time, make sure that the remains of food do not start to rot in the terrarium. To avoid this, you can put the pet in a separate container with water for the time of feeding, and then return it back to the terrarium.

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